GAO Report: Military Readiness
Department of Defense Domain Readiness Varied from Fiscal Year 2017 through Fiscal Year 2019
Nearly two decades of conflict has degraded military readiness at a time when the National Defense Strategy calls for preparedness for great-power competition. The strategy states that the Department of Defense (DOD) should be ready to operate in all warfighting domains—ground, sea, air, space, and cyber.
To assess readiness over time, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 included a provision that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report annually through 2022—using 2017 as a baseline—on the readiness of the military in the ground, sea, air, space, and cyber domains. This report describes (1) the extent to which DOD has established a plan with goals and metrics for readiness recovery and (2) how readiness has changed from fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2019 in each domain.
The DOD has developed a plan for readiness recovery—referred to as the Readiness Recovery Framework—which includes goals and metrics to assess progress in addressing primary readiness issues. Since 2018, DOD has revised its readiness recovery goals and metrics to align with the 2018 National Defense Strategy according to DOD officials.
Readiness increased in the ground domain and declined in the sea domain from fiscal year 2017 through fiscal year 2019, and rating changes were mixed in the air, space, and cyber domains. The ratings are based on GAO’s analysis of data for selected mission areas—groups of similar capabilities from across the services, such as fighter jets—and force elements—subsets of units within each mission area—within each of the five domains.
GAO found that reported domain readiness did not meet readiness recovery goals identified by the military services. DOD has identified a wide range of challenges it faces as it seeks to improve readiness in each of the five domains. For example, within the sea domain, the Navy identified limited maintenance capacity at private and public shipyards as the primary challenge for recovering ship and submarine readiness. GAO will continue to monitor and report on DOD’s domain readiness as required by Congress through 2022.
In May 2019, GAO reported that DOD was not measuring or reporting readiness to perform full-spectrum operations by domain, as required by law, and recommended DOD do so. However, since 2019 the Office of the Secretary of Defense has expressed that the ground, sea, and air domains are captured in the Readiness Recovery Framework, and that instead of developing separate metrics for measuring readiness by domains, it is focused on tracking readiness recovery by military service. GAO continues to believe our recommendation is valid.
To read GAO’s full report, go to: www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-279.pdf